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More Articles

Where Obedience Leaves Off and Freestyle Starts
A Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose
The Freestyle Challenge
Getting Started With Freestyle
Definition of Freestyle and Structure of a Freestyle Performance
More Than Just Heeling
Creative Development of Movement
Music, Rhythm and Freestyle
Understanding Required Moves
Do I Have to Dance?
Freestyle - A Point of View
Training: a New Mindset
My Introduction to Training a Freestyle Dog
It Takes Three - The Audience
Choreography: How to Begin
40x50 Feet: The Empty Canvas
Rhythm: The Great Organizer
What is a Guild

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CFF has Required Moves which increase in difficulty through the three competition Levels. They are basic training skills which lead you through the development of a trained, balanced, supple canine athlete physically capable of many of the optional moves of freestyle and with a brain attuned to learning. Most of them stem from basic obedience which is the training foundation on which most of us base our relationships with our dogs.

  • Heeling: Have you ever seen a freestyle routine without heeling? It’s not impossible but highly unlikely. What could be more natural than moving side by side? That is how we express companionship and relationship with other human beings as well as our dogs, at work and at play. We are definitely expressing our relationship with our dogs when we do freestyle. CFF requires heeling. If you so choose you could fulfil that requirement with 5 - 10 seconds of heeling and use all the rest of your time with optional movements. CFF has broadened the definition of heeling to allow more leeway forward and back in freestyle movements such as laterals where the dogs’ legs may interfere with the handlers depending on their size and conformation.

CFF requires heeling on both sides - right and left. This is for versatility and physical balance and results in a better conditioned dog than one that works only on a single side. If we consider our dogs to be athletes we should strive for balance in physical conditioning. This prepares them to better handle the physical demands we make of them. Heeling on both sides also allows more directional versatility in choreography.

  • Frontwork: To approach and greet front to front is also a natural expression of our relationships with other beings, be they people or dogs. Face to face, eye to eye contact is very powerful. We utilize these concepts in training a recall with our dogs, that basic, potentially life saving exercise which should be high on every dog owner’s priority list. You relate to your dogs face to face every day in innumerable situations. CFF requires frontwork. Could you never face your dog during a freestyle routine? Again, it’s possible, but do you begin to see that these requirements are based on the natural relationships we share with our dogs all the time? In most cases you would fulfill them with barely a thought as you choreograph. As a matter of fact you would have to work very hard not to fulfill them. The freestyle challenge is to be innovative and infuse creativity into these technically defined relationships with our dogs.
  • Changes of Pace: You could do an entire freestyle routine at a single pace but there is a certain artistic monotony to a single paced routine which will creatively benefit from even a few moments of a contrasting pace. CFF requires changes of pace.
  • Backing and Lateral Work: Backing and Lateral Work represent training not commonly (but sometimes) found in basic obedience work. These relate to the development of our dogs as athletes. These movements teach them coordination and an understanding of the location and movement of their hindquarters. The increased muscling and coordination enables our dogs to better and more safely handle whatever unusual movements and athletic endeavors we ask of them. CFF requires backing (starting at Level II) and lateral work (starting at Level II) as a foundation for the safety, health and well being of our dogs as we ask them to participate in increasingly athletic endeavors.
  • Turns and Pivots, Circles, Serpentines or Spirals: Could you to choreograph a routine which did not use some combination of these movements? Do you begin to understand how natural most of the CFF requirements are? Don’t get bogged down in the "I have to." You will quickly realize that most of the CFF requirements are part and parcel of your natural working relationship with your dog. The others are there to help you develop your dog’s athletic potential for the work you ask of him.
  • Distance Work: Distance work (dog and handler separated by a minimum of six feet) is added at Level III as a challenge for more creative and versatile training.

All the requirements also serve as a framework for developing choreography, both for the exhibitor and the audience. There needs to be a common ground for understanding a performance both creatively and technically. With total freedom creativity can be hindered because there are too many choices and your audience has no reference points or perspective on what you are trying to achieve. The technical aspects of freestyle all represent movement and we should be concerned with the artistry and presentation of that movement, indeed these are inseparable aspects of freestyle.

As there are three Levels of competition in CFF and you may enter any Level you wish, you are free to select according to your dog’s training and your own motivations and goals. Even at Level III if you wished to just get the requirements out of the way you could probably do so in thirty seconds or less, but you would find that you fulfilled many of those requirements almost without thinking during the rest of your routine as well.

Under CFF rules some people choose to do a more classical style of freestyle which is based primarily on heeling, as even at Level III all the requirements except frontwork and distance work can be done in heel position. CFF rules also allow for Optional Movements and the requirements other than heeling itself can be fulfilled in other positions relative to the handler. There is a great deal of freedom for creativity and experimentation under CFF rules.

And for those of you who truly wish to have no constraints on your creativity CFF offers a Creative Interpretation class with no required moves, which is a For Exhibition Only class. This class also allows the new exhibitor to get their feet wet without the pressure of being judged. What is seen in this class may very well influence the further development of CFF Freestyle.

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